Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A Little Night Music! Bats in the Band by Brian Lies

We sing for our supper, in brightening mood.
Swooping and diving, we're finding our food.

But each of us sense that something's not right.
And then when a bugle blast shatters the night,

Relief on our faces is easy to read.
A little night music is just what we need!

After a long, cold winter's hibernation, the bats swarm out of their belfry, eager for their first meal of the season.

But bats do not live by bread (er, moth and mosquito) alone. Their souls are hungry for music and they follow the bugle call to a darkened clapboarded summer theatre, where the first bat roadies are already setting up the lighting and sound systems on stage.

Some professionals fly in with their instruments and chart sheets in tow, while amateur music makers improvise instruments--a bull fiddle spoon, a pocket comb harp, and a row of hanging keys for percussionists. A conductor in formal attire taps the podium and an impromptu ensemble takes the stage. There's a Ravi Shankar look-alike bat on sitar, and a solemn, rotund B.B. King bat tuning up on his acoustic guitar. Even a bagpipe bat puffs up his bag to start the drone.

As a babysitter bat takes the diaper set away for their own nursery singalong, the choral bats take to the risers.

All together, rafters ringing...
It's as though our souls are singing.

Then a string quartet sets up, their music stands suspended from the ceiling, violins, cello, and viola fingered bat-style, upside down.

If you haven't seen a bat quartet,
You really ain't seen nothing yet!

One act after another takes the stage--a one-bat band, a country combo singin' about somebody done wrong. A sultry Lady Day bat, with trademark gardenias in her hair, takes the stage as the spotlights go blue, with cameo appearances by The Prez with shades and sax and a Dizzy trumpeter, his cheeks puffed, holding his horn high, blowin' the blues. Everyone gets into the act, even an air-guitar band, while a young bat with a huge mallet appears (hidden in the foreshadows, so to speak) as all the musicians crowd the stage for the final performance. The little percussionist is poised for his big moment.

The music soars. Finale's here, the ending of the song.
Here it comes! It's going...going.... GONG!

Forthcoming today, celebrated author-illustrator Brian Lies' latest, Bats in the Band (A Bat Book) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), hits a high note in the fourth book in this best-selling series. Lies' couplets are poetic and his illustrations are splendid, each bat rendered as as individual, whether they're cuddling a toddler or banging the bongos. Lies is one of those wonderful artists whose nighttime scenes use the limited light with exquisite, glowing artistry. Light shines through the listening bats' translucent ears, glistens off their whiskers, and sparkles in their eyes, while Lies slyly tucks in visual jokes that grownups will savor (CD vendors in the lobby feature albums by Echo and the Locators, The Beastie Bats, Batman Turner Overdrive, and Bat Company and famous musicians appear in bat guise on stage).

As the sun comes up and the tired bats wing home, hearts full of song, a lone bat fiddler on the roof plays... and we can almost hear what we know is his song.... "Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset ...."

Bravo, bats! Bravo, Brian Lies!

Not to be missed are the other splendid picture books in this series, Bats at the Beach (A Bat Book), Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame (A Bat Book). (See reviews here).

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